Diane Balser—International Liberation Reference Person for Women

Women

Our collapsing society is having a tremendous effect on all groups, especially on women and on working people, poor people, and people targeted by racism, genocide, and colonialism—groups that women are a significant percentage of.

CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN

Women worldwide face enormous challenges: poverty, illiteracy (in the economic South), low pay, the exploitation and degradation of their bodies, and sexual and other violence. Women generally lack access to economic and political power. They are uniquely and harshly affected by war (civilian deaths and rape) and forced migration (people often refer to the “feminization of migration”).

Women in the economic South, particularly women indigenous to those lands, are being directly affected by the combination of climate change, poverty, Western domination, destruction of land, and displacement.

Globalization has reorganized women’s lives and work. It has led to the proliferation of transnational factories as well as the sex industries, including prostitution, pornography, sex tourism, and sex trafficking.

We are witnessing a “war against women.” Women’s political gains (such as reproductive rights) are under attack. Women are being more heavily targeted with sexual and other violence. Super-profits are being made from the objectification of women. Women seeking political power are being sexually harassed. Women who stand up against sexism (and all oppression), or otherwise move out of traditional subordinate roles, are being targeted and sometimes killed. We could see most of these things happening during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. 

With advanced capitalism have come new markets and new forms of exploitation, including new forms of sexism. “Newer ideas” are justifying these new forms of sexism. For example, women are said to have the “right of choice”—the right to objectify themselves and get money for it. Confusion abounds.

The women’s movement has been continually assaulted and the battle against sexism trivialized and individualized. Women’s unity has been undermined. Women have been divided.

Though there has been some progress, the battle against racism needs to be made more central to the battle against sexism. The myth persists that women of the Western world are more liberated because they don’t experience the sexist oppression of women (particularly Muslim women) in developing nations. This myth has been used to justify racist foreign policies.

In addition to male domination of women, male domination of men is a big part of the picture of global oppression. Men targeted by racism, class oppression, and genocide are systematically subordinated, denied political and economic power, killed in war and other violence, and imprisoned. They are also often seen (incorrectly) as being the most sexist men.

We still need a complete and correct understanding of the relationship between women’s oppression and Gay oppression. Young and young-adult women are focusing more on gender than on combating sexism. Older women who are struggling against the plateauing of the battle against sexism can seem to be in conflict with younger women, who may minimize that battle or see it differently.

Making women’s liberation central continues to be a challenge—even more so with the ascendency of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. 

There remain sharp contradictions among women and confusions in contemporary ideologies. Women need to fully grasp the larger crises of global capitalism, racism, the destruction of the environment, militarism, and the economic exploitation of much of the world’s population.

PROGRESS

Much has changed since the powerful women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s in the West. There are growing women’s movements in the economic South, led by women targeted by racism, genocide, and colonialism. The huge worldwide women’s marches after Donald Trump’s inauguration revealed the globalization of women’s movements and issues, and women’s transformative power.

Fights for women’s health care and economic rights, for reproductive justice, and against violence and sexual exploitation have become increasingly linked with the struggles of other oppressed groups. More attention is being paid to the intersection of sexism and racism and the many other “isms.”

WOMEN’S LIBERATION IN RC

Women remain the majority of Co-Counselors and RC leaders, and RC women’s liberation keeps growing stronger. There are many support groups and women’s workshops. The RC e-mail discussion list for women has wide readership (though it needs to be more accessible outside of English-speaking countries). The Sisters journal and the No Limits: The Liberation of Women pamphlet are being widely distributed.

We continue to put the elimination of sexism and male domination (of men and of women) at the forefront. We regularly work on racism, which is the key division among women.

Almost every liberation constituency is working on the elimination of sexism and male domination. There are workshops for women of various constituencies, including the different class backgrounds, and workshops for women and men. The Contemporary Issues for Women Workshops, which take place every three years in five regions of the world, keep developing and spreading our most advanced thinking and practice.

No Limits for Women went public on a large scale (for the first time since 1995) at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Beijing+20, in New York City, USA, in 2015. We also organized ourselves for the massive women’s marches on the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated.

CHALLENGES FOR THE RC COMMUNITIES

The following are some of the challenges for the RC Communities:

1) Many of us women still struggle to put sexism and women’s liberation at the forefront of our minds; these issues become invisible, devalued, or minimized. We still often put others ahead of ourselves, reducing our effectiveness in other struggles. Many of us find it hard to work on our most personal issues. We internalize the harshness and viciousness of sexism. We also internalize our collective defeats—something that’s easy to do because of how sexism and male domination have been so universally accepted. The massive targeting of female infants and young girls in today’s world can help us notice our own exploitation and oppression and work on them.

2) Women’s liberation needs to be part of every woman’s agenda. We need more women’s support groups. We need to bring women’s issues into the center of all of our general work. Too often they are neglected or denied. The fight for ourselves as women is key to our leadership of everything else.

3) Men’s liberation is developing faster than it sometimes seems, but we can do better at enlisting men as allies in eliminating sexism. We often don’t see how crucial we are to men and to their ability to reclaim the discharge process, feel worthwhile, and tackle sexism and male domination alongside us. We often see them as our problems, or our solutions, rather than putting attention on where we struggle with them and what we need to do to lead them. Their battles are often hard for us to look at and understand. For the RC Communities to grow well, we need to include men’s liberation in all of our work.

4) We tend to avoid facing sexual exploitation. Looking at sexual victimization, pornography, and sexual violence can feel hard. We need to address these topics proactively.

5) Many of us have difficulty recognizing the extent of U.S. and other Western domination. It can be hard for us to grasp the “larger” issues and look at things from a broad perspective. We need to be better informed about the struggles of our global sisters, who are facing racism, genocide, colonialism, Western domination, male domination, advanced capitalism’s unbridled accumulation of wealth and profit, environmental degradation, and ongoing wars. How do we build a movement based on the unity of all women and overcome the divisions among us?

6) We need to lead more boldly and courageously. Many of us were “trained” and hurt into “going small.” Native women and women of color in the global South have taken the lead on environmental issues. There is much to learn from them.

7) Western capitalism is presenting new irrationalities and portraying them as “normal.” Young women, in particular, are being targeted. Useful women’s liberation policies are being distorted and undercut. We need to grow in our ability to put out sound, rational ideas from an RC perspective (whether or not they’re popularly received), including that we can fight for our minds. We need to counter ideas like “you need to change your body in order to find freedom,” and the connecting of sex and domination.

8) As women’s liberation work keeps growing, we need to follow the leadership of women of color, Indigenous women, young and young-adult women, presently working-class women, and women targeted by colonialism.

9) We older female RC leaders need to keep growing individually and fight even bigger. We need to face any limitations we’ve “accepted” and discharge on any battles we’ve lost. We can fully support younger women and share with them everything we know.

Diane Balser

International Liberation Reference Person for Women

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA

(Present Time 188, July 2017)


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00